Giving gifts? Not so fast
50th Space Wing Judge Advocate
/ Published December 08, 2014
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- With the holidays just around the corner, now is a good time to remind military members and Department of Defense employees of the government-mandated gift-giving and receiving rules.
Considerations include the nature of the gift, the surrounding circumstances, the gift's giver, and the gift's recipient.
So what is considered a gift?
It is any item having monetary value including cash, meals, trips, concert tickets, lodging, entertainment and services.
Modest items of food and refreshments are usually not considered gifts, such as a cup of coffee, donuts, and items of little intrinsic value, such as greeting cards, plaques and certificates intended solely for presentation.
When can I accept a gift?
Generally, military employees may not accept a gift that is given due to an official position or that is given by a prohibited source. A prohibited source is any person or entity seeking official action by the Air Force, does business with the Air Force or conducts activities regulated by the Air Force.
Examples of prohibited sources are contractors, local business owners and distributors doing business or seeking to do business with Schriever Air Force Base.
Exceptions to this general rule include unsolicited gifts worth less than $20 (but no more than $50 in a year from one source), gifts based on personal relationships and gifts from outside business activities (i.e. gifts given not because of the recipient's official position).
Is the office gift exchange allowed under the ethics rules?
Gift exchanges are allowed when people contribute and receive items of approximately equal value. Because no one receives a financial benefit, the items exchanged are not considered gifts under the ethics rules.
For actual gifts, in instances where a person gives something of value without the expectation of receiving something equal in return, military employees generally may not give a gift to or contribute to a gift for a superior. Also, it is prohibited to solicit a contribution from another employee for an official superior. As a general rule, military employees may not accept a gift from an employee who is paid less.
Are there any exceptions?
If the non-cash item is worth $10 or less, then it's authorized if given during traditional gift-giving occasions. If the gift is given because of a clear personal relationship, such as between family or among friends, then the gift is authorized.
For more information regarding gift giving and receiving under DOD 5500.7-R, military employees can contact the 50th Space Wing Legal office at 567-5050.